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Posts Tagged ‘wine bloggers’

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Great crowd, fantastic wines, cool mix up of technology and of course…this very social event: that was the basic recipe for Thursday’s Wine 2.0 Tasting.  The tweet-stream of the evening played high above the crowd.  Video screens and projectors with various content were in every row.  But I think my favorite part has to be the bloggers lounge.  Here, Wine 2.0 is working to set aside space for food & wine bloggers to do what they do right there at the event.  Of course no one wants to spend a whole tasting attached to their keyboard when there is wine to enjoy…but the possibility of connecting a few readers with the bloggers experience in real time, maybe some photos and a couple quick wine reviews, sounds like a great blend of technology and  current, relevant stuff.  My next hope is that consumers at the tasting have enough exposure to the bloggers at the event and have the opportunity to connect with the wine bloggers and their content.

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The greatest value I see in creating a space for the bloggers at these events, in addition to acknowledging their passion and contribution to the wine loving world, is to connect them with consumers and fellow trade to increase exposure and readership.  I think the next easy step is to include links to the attending bloggers’ web sites. Their content continues to be entertaining, interesting, educational and valuable to wine consumers…and did I mention wine blogs are free?  They can help cover wines attendees weren’t able to get to or couldn’t remember.  Their coverage of the event seems to me to be an obvious way to reconnect with the wine tasting experience, the wineries and the wine bloggers who were there.

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There are always more wine blogs to check out.  My blog roll to the right here is continually getting longer and their content keeps getting better.  There is so much variety that I’m sure you’ll find one to suit your taste.  Check out a wine blog now.

Cheers.

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grapesrbeebe1If you love wine as much as I do, wine blogs are the best reading out there on the subject… and they are FREE!  The variety, depth of knowlegde, wines tasted and reviewed, wine events, images, humor and scope of topics covered in the nearly 1,000 wine blogs world wide have something to offer everyone.  And the wine blog writers?  They write about wine because they love it.  They have a passion for all things wine.   Wine Bloggers are getting more access to wineries and winemakers, conferences and social sites (thank you Joel Vincent) are growing at breakneck pace.  Then there’s Wine 2.0,  “the innovator in social networking and events in the wine industry“, Mutineer Magazine, a fascinating, independent publication on all things beverage.  And MANY more wine sites online and beyond.  Is there a local wine bar in your neighborhood?

As this segment of our industry grows and finds their niche, I think their readership will likewise find them in 2009.  But how?  It has to be classic word of mouth.  Fortunately, there’s nothing quite as powerful as word of mouth.  As we all work a little harder and wade through the contraction of our world economy in 2009, it is up to us to share the (free) resources online with our friends and family.  That might include teaching them about RSS feeds, subscribing to a blog, commenting on a blog or even shopping online.  

Mutineer Magazine did a great spread called “Blogs You Should Be Reading” in their latest issue.  Hahn is hosting regular Bloggers Tasting Forums, and other wineries will be doing the same in ’09.  The Wine Bloggers Conference, after a Sold Out weekend last October, will likely be planning for an even bigger event in ’09.  And the Wine 2.0 calendar looks poised to make significant connections throughout the wine world and perhaps beyond.  

Whatever series of resources you find to spread the word about your favorite blog (and your own blog as well), reaching beyond todays readership to access tomorrow’s wine blog reader is the next step in our evolultion.  Perhaps wineries will take the risk of posting a wine blog roll?  And maybe the old wine media might reach beyond their top 100 blogs list to find the depth, vitality and diversity in the other 90% of wine blogs written around the world?  And maybe we’ll find the tipping point in readership that the quality and passion of your content deserves.  

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Photos courtesy of Russ Beebe: The Wine Hiker.

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Sure.  Why not?  Our goals may be different, but our passion for wine is shared.

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Yesterday Hahn Family Wines hosted the first ever Bloggers Tasting Forum at their offices in Napa.  (disclosure: I work for Hahn, but do not write this blog as part of my employment for them.)  Bloggers, winemakers, winery Presidents, winery owners, a journalist, a filmaker, a Director of Vineyard Operations,  and a PhD candidate studying bloggers were all in attendance.  There were also wine lovers who create content either via podcasts, (Vintuba.com) or a wine search engine (1,000 Corks).  Most folks were from the bay area, but some came from as far as Los Angeles, Tennessee, and Washington state.  The goals:  1.  To taste some of Hahn’s finest examples of Santa Lucia Highlands terroir, learn a bit about the AVA and each other.  2. Continue the conversation about wine bloggers and wineries working together.  How could that work?  To what end?  And how do bloggers and wineries manage credibility and integrity in exploration of the Wine World 2.0 experience.

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The variety of guests made for a fascinating and significant conversation.  Here’s what I took away from the event at first blush:

  • We’d like to host the Blogger Tasting Forum regularly, maybe quarterly. And perhaps at different wineries.
  • The variety and inclusive nature of attendees was essential to the chemistry in the room.  People from 3 guest wineries were there.  We poured from 2 who brought their wines: Twisted Oak, and Pianetta.  I wish Judd had brought Humanitas and Schlumberger.
  • There are absolutely a number of opportunities for bloggers and winereies to work together in ways totally appropriate and in ways that add tremendous value to the consumers experience, the bloggers experience and the wineries’ business.
  • The shift of influence in the wine world from old print media to new on-line media, especially in the form of blogs with character, variety and accessibility to the variety of wine lovers out there is essential to the success of a growing wine industry.  I can’t overstate this enough.  Those born digital are a massive, significant segment not just of the on-line world, but re-creating the on-line world.
  • Anything wineries can do to contribute to wine bloggers readership will help the wine industry in general and wineries and bloggers in specific.  It is the best, most interesting and direct access between wineries and consumers to cultivate conversations.  The more the better.
  • Anything bloggers can do to cultivate relationships with restaurants, wine bars, and their wine buyers to participate in their blog conversations and/or connect with the restaurant/wine bar blog could also have a great impact on the winery, blogger, consumer conversation.  Those wine directors and sommeliers are the influencers we’d love to have join the conversation more often.  They make the decisions about which wines appear on the wine lists.  Bloggers:  if you have them contributing to your blog conversations, wineries and many segments of the industry will absolutely HAVE to follow along, or get left in the dust.

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The questions that remain are many:

  1. How do you measure the value, i.e. the bottom line, for how a blogger can positively influence your wineries’ business?
  2. What is in it for the blogger?  Readership?  Wine? Consulting/writing fee?  Access to their subject?
  3. What does the wine consumer and wine blog reader gain by this collaboration?
  4. Is it enough to maintain your own integrity if you disclose the nature of the relationship between the business and the blogger?
  5. Another important question, squarely in the laps of bloggers, was so well put by Joe Roberts from 1WineDude:   “Heaven knows I’ve got no problem whatsoever being courted by winemakers, PR contacts, or the wine media in general (in fact, my view is that it’s about time this has happened). The trick is maintaining the willpower to keep a unique, individual, and (hopefully) credibly opinionated voice as a blogger while the “courting” ramps up.

Based on what Bill Leigon, President of Hahn, Adam LaZarre, winemaker and Andy Mitchell, Director of Vineyard Operations had to say yesterday, yes, Hahn wants to sell more wine: AND, “…we all have a passion for wine, we’re interested in educating people about our wines, our Central Coast wine region, our winemaking practices.”  And frankly, in the new media world that is 2.0, it is more possible to have a far reaching, diverse, informed conversation with more people without filters more than ever before.

So to the evolution of the conversation, in person, on-line and over a glass of wine.

Cheers!

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Photos provided courtesy of Thea Dwelle and Lisa Adams-Walter and Chris Butts.

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“There are journalists and there are bloggers.  There are doctors and there are faith healers.”  So said Jeff Cox moderating at the first Green Wine Summit yesterday in Santa Rosa, California during one of the breakout sessions.  Here’s my disclosure:  I’m not a doctor, a faith healer or a journalist.  But I am fascinated by the current debate and passion stirred up between the old media, aka traditional journalists and bloggers.  Wine bloggers in particular are wrestling with sorting their own guidelines, policy and formula we hope in an effort to uphold integrity in their writing.  And while some do work to maintain high journalistic standards in their blogs, many are passionate wineophiles, novice-experts, who offer their posts for whom ever is interested without claims of journalistic superiority nor breach of integrity.  They’re just writing stories, opinions, and reviews connecting with people who enjoy a similar interest.

newspaper1Is there a threat to old media journalists that provokes them to sneer or denigrate bloggers?  If you are measuring readership, perhaps so.  I’m not sure how you qualify as a “real journalist”.  Is it required to have a journalism degree?  From which college or university?  What if you never used that degree, became a teacher and now you blog?  Are you a “real journalist” then?  What if you don’t have the degree but have been working for a newspaper or magazine all your life, writing or editing?  Are you a “real journalist” then?

Most (wine) bloggers don’t suggest they are journalists.  We, their readers, hope and expect that they will aim for accuracy, honesty, integrity and full disclosure.  But even “real journalists” have fallen short on more than one occasion.   We also hope they will inform or entertain, lead us to great wine or make us laugh.  Perhaps their value comes from the variety of material available from the blogs;  but also from getting to know that voice, their tone and tendencies, their preferences and passions.  The likes of classic, computer1extraordinary journalists like Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney have captured their audiences in no small part by revealing much of themselves in their reporting and writing.  Who they are came through along with the information they were sharing.  That makes me think even more that blogging is about connecting;  connecting with people you share something with that maybe you don’t even know.  With so many differences that separate and divide us, I find it a treat to connect with smart, passionate, talented bloggers who offer their experiences in wry or poignant, frank or even silly on-line content in their blog.

There is a great deal more debate to have regarding the sorting, classifying and clarifying of bloggers policies, integrity, qualifications, etc.  The massive quantity of content on-line requires that users become better filters.  Bloggers will have to take it upon themselves to produce quality content with full disclosure and integrity with whatever voice, interpretation, independence or style they choose..  There is no certification process or Hippocratic oath for bloggers (oh wait, I don’t think there is one for journalists either).  Access to the internet has become a great equalizer giving many a voice, and readers, they never had before.  And ultimately readership may determine the success of any (wine) blog.  But, there are many who would write their blog even if no one were reading them.  This may beg the question, “Why?”.  Because they can.

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We (as in bloggers and whom ever wishes to join us), are hosting conversations.  Some of those topics include wine preferences, wine making practices, sustainability, sales & marketing, industry trends, Web 2.0 wine start-ups, …you get the idea.  The scope of topics and writers run far and wide. The blogs I’ve read are pretty clear who they are, what they are about and where they are coming from.  I appreciate transparency.  For example, I work for Hahn Family Wines as the New Media Marketing Director.  And this blog is NOT part of that purview.  Is there overlap, yes.  But ultimately, I say exactly what I think, believe and know to be true from my perspective to engage and have a conversation.  The purpose of this conversation is to connect bloggers, wineries and consumers in new, beneficial ways for all wine lovers.  (ok, fine, I live in my own little wine-soaked utopia, cheers.)

2daysperbottleI love this blog: 2 Days Per Bottle.  Just the wooden man, pics, review policy and music make me smile.  But my favorite is his recommendation for Thanksgiving wine: “ Step One- DRINK WHAT YOU LIKE AND STOP MAKING SUCH A BIG DEAL ABOUT IT!!! FOR PETE’S SAKE, IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!!!”  Yup.  So you know when people start getting too serious about this stuff they either need to take a step back or find a good shag.  Honestly, it’s wine.

So what?  So I’m interested in bring new ideas, engaging experiments and thoughtful progress to the conversation.  Currently I think most of the printed establishment on wine is stilted, overly serious and pompous.  Let’s put it this way: Most Wine Bloggers are not press or journalists (let’s go with in the traditional sense).  Wine bloggers journal their OWN perspective.  There’s nothing objective about it.  Ok, some try to offer objectivity, but you’ll have to figure out what that means to each individual blogger, IF that’s important to you. Some have clearly defined policies or ethics guidelines.  Great, it is always valuable to know where people are coming from and what they’re about when you engage them in the conversation.  There are some great winery blogs as well.  So SOME bloggers are press/journalists from before the era of blogging.  Some bloggers consider themselves journalists online and adhere to the same ethics as traditional print/TV journalists, and some bloggers are “*other*” as 1WineDude says.

winesherpaSo my point is that there is no one point.  Bloggers, wine-bloggers are basically wineophile anarchist writers.  They have passion, brains, joie de vivre, and a direction if not a calling to talk to people about this passion via their blog, but they are not a homogenized bunch.  And they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to.  That independence is a beautiful thing.  Applause for the wild, forward thinking, experimental, wine loving population and all their drive to journal, blog and post about it.  They add value to the conversation, the wine world, and to wine consumers savvy enough to find their unique voices.

Not all of my ideas are great, but idea generating is essential.  I’m going out on a limb and agreeing with Seth Godin on this one.   Ideas=fuel for the conversation.  Glad to have you all part of it.  Particularly if you can add something.

Wooden Men image courtesy of 2 Days Per Bottle

Wine Sherpa image courtesy of The Winehiker: Russ Beebe

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Bloggers are micro-niche alpha consumers. ” WTF?”  you say? Bloggers are a gold mine not just for reviews for a product but also for access, resources, information and possibly discounts, specials, events, connections and more.

Let’s start at the beginning: micro-niche?  Take wine bloggers, for example; there are hundreds of wine bloggers world wide that each have particular strengths or focus.  If you like pinot noir there are blogs for that micro-niche, do you like the Central Coast of California wine country?  Looking for something more international?  Perhaps Spanish or Portuguese?  There are bloggers for most wine passions out there. (Right now you’re reading a blog specializing in wine marketing and social networking.)  Ok, so now you get the idea for micro-niche.  For me it points to a depth of field, experience as well as infinite fun, experimentation, and exploration.

Next, the alpha consumer:  It is defined in Neologisims as “one who starts a trend or picks it up very early, often long before the rest of the population, usu. used as a predictor of economic trends“.  I’ll apply it slightly differently to the wine blogging world because the timing on wine is different than say, new electronics.  Bloggers are the alpha wine consumers because:

  • they taste a LOT of wines
  • they talk…a LOT
  • they write frequently, posting publically and have hundreds of thousands if not millions of readers

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Essentially I’m suggesting that wine bloggers’ influence can support or direct wine buying trends.  And now that there are social meduims on line like Twitter Taste Live, the Open Wine Consortium and Wine 2.0 where these conversations between bloggers and consumers are aggregated and duplicated in addition to their individual blog posts, I believe their influence will only grow.  For the wine world and especially for consumers, I think that’s fantastic because bloggers are knowledgeable, passionate wine geeks sharing their wine experience.  They go through a lot of bad wine and less than hospitable wineries to tell you about the great ones.  Nothing beats sitting around with friends experimenting with a tasty flight of new wines and then telling the world about it. After that, I’m looking to convert casual wine tasters into passionate wineophiles.

It’s the kind of person to person connecting that brings meaning to the experience.  Anyone that thinks you’re selling them something will just go away, turned off.  Brand development is taking a 180 degree turn-about.  Gary Vaynerchuk says “give a shit about your community.”  Marta Kagen who created the What the F**K is Social Media slide share presentation reported that 78% of people trust the recommendations of other consumers. (Compared to the 14% who trust advertising claims.  Both from the Nielsen “Trust in Advertising Report)  Who do you trust?

I’ve said it before: Find the wine blogs right for you, then subscribe.  But don’t just stop there.  Share what you find.  Make connections, leave a comment, share a post with a friend, send the link to your dad.  It will feed the next time you are together sharing a bottle of wine, whether you’re talking about the USC Trojans’ latest victory or discussing the finer points of terrior, and US vineyard soil vs. France’s Bordeaux region.  US wine markets are just coming into their own as Americans embrace wine into daily life.  Better yet, information and social connectivity has never been so hi-tech, easy and accessible online.  Blogs provide the centralizing content that connects what we’re passionate about with each other.

That’s what.


Special thanks to Shana Ray for the photo.

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